Boehner's Unforced Blunder

No two ways about it: the potential next speaker of the House, John Boehner, handed the Democrats a gift when he intimated that he would be open to voting for a bill that preserved the Bush tax cuts only for those making $250,000 or less. Boehner quickly tried to corral the horse and put it back in the barn, saying that he really didn't see a distinction between tax cuts ... that small business would be penalized by the refusal to extend the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 and that he would not support legislation that would raise taxes on anyone.

"If the only option I have is to vote for those at $250,000 and below, of course I'm going to do that." Boehner said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "But I'm going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans."

It's still hard to see Democrats mustering the numbers to pass a bill doing this, but Boehner's comments might help prevent more Democrats from endorsing calls to extend the tax cuts for all Americans.

It may precipitate a leadership fight amongst Republicans if they retake control of the House, because a large number of new freshman GOPers are not going to want to compromise one iota with President Obama, specifically about tax cuts.

It's already precipitated a row (of sorts) within the caucus.

Boehner's comments remake the terms of a "broad compromise." Where progressive Democrats complained that "compromising" on tax cuts meant capitulating to Republican demands to extend them all, at least for a year, the "compromise" position on the table is now the one Obama proposed during his campaign. Also, it will reinforce doubts about Boehner's fundamental capacity to be a leader of a majority.

This solution also tracks with public opinion. Most Americans get the complexity of this issue: the Bush-era tax cuts were designed to stimulate the economy, and they had an expiration date because they would balloon the deficit too much if they were allowed to continue in perpetuity. Americans may understand, and even have some sympathy for, the argument that depriving people earning $250,000 or more of the marginal income tax rate they've used for the past few years might make it less attractive for small businesses to hire, but they don't see the A to B connection that Republicans have been using to energize their base.

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

Just In